Street To City Employers (And Job Seekers): Drop Dead

Despite the advice of some of his own advisors, the nudges of the city's elected and appointed fiscal watchdogs, and the overwhelming evidence that the policy would help grow jobs in Philadelphia, Mayor Street decided to veto the bill to phase out the job-killing Business Privilege Tax.  Predictably, the Mayor cited the cost of the bill in his veto message, but let's just say the veto message was a bit on the not-so-credible side.  A vote to override the veto failed in City Council.  Councilman Nutter promptly reintroduced the bill so we will dance again just after the summer.       

In an unrelated story (if you believe it is unrelated, you probably still believe that the Mayor's box was never used for political fundraisers), the Bureau of Labor statistics reports that while the region is growing jobs, Philadelphia continued to lose jobs in recent quarters -- since 2000, Philadelphia has now lost more than 42,000 jobs.  "The pattern hasn't changed," said Sheila Watkins, regional commissioner with the Bureau of Labor Statistics. "The growth is still occurring outside the city." (Full Story).

On the negative side, the Mayor played petty politics, vetoing legislation to hurt a political rival instead of sending an important signal to the city's current and potential employers that the city is committed to job growth.  The Mayor showed the city's employers (and job seekers) where they rank in terms of his priorities, which suggests that the city's long-term lagging economic performance will continue.

On the positive side, this bill was largely symbolic in the first years in terms of token cuts to the the Net Income Portion of the Business Privilege Tax while important cuts in the Gross Receipts Tax and City Wage Tax DO continue thanks to already-enacted tax reform legislation.  We have again demonstrated that this issue is not going away so all of those in City Hall will have to address this issue again (and again)!  With your continued support, we WILL make Philadelphia a city that attracts and retains its jobs and neighbors.

So what happens next?  Despite the city administration's rhetoric that the city could not afford the cost of the "eliminate the BPT" bill (even though the cost in the coming years is one-tenth of one percent of city spending) the city will soon announce that it has solved its latest budget crisis.  The city always finds money for favored programs and always finds excuses not to do tax reform.  The city will likely announce a new spending initiative in the coming months (it happens like clockwork each year after the budget is completed), and will soon enough be muddling through another "difficult" budget. 

As we saw this year, it is painfully clear that the public needs to be more involved and engaged in the process to determine the priorities we set in how we raise and spend public money.  Philadelphia Forward will work to help the public understand how we raise and spend our money -- and how we do not use information tools and techniques employed elsewhere to ensure an open and transparent budget process.

It is also clear that Philadelphia Forward must continue to build its constituency for change and develop a citizens' issues platform so that we can promote the policies that can make Philadelphia the city we know it SHOULD be.  Make no mistake, Philadelphia survived the yellow fever epidemic in the 1790s and the collapse of the '64 Phillies...we'll make it through these next two years until we have a chance to redefine our government in 2007. 

If our elected officials will not listen to the public voice, then it is up to us to use that public voice to elect different officials.  Then, we will have the opportunity to elect a new Mayor (because the Mayor is limited to two terms, we will choose a new Mayor in 2007) and new members of City Council (Council terms are unlimited, but there will likely be many open -- or vulnerable -- seats up for grabs in 2007).